Listen. I’m a cat.


Here and here I talk about different ways of seeing. Now I want to talk about listening. I’m a good seer, but not such a great listener unless it’s music, and sometimes even then I think I listen more with the rest of my body than I do with my ears.

This past weekend I started training to become a life coach. I’m taking classes and certifying through the Coaches Training Institute because I like their Co-Active model of coaching focusing on helping people find within themselves the creativity, power, and energy to connect deeply with others and create the transformation they want in their lives.

This weekend I did the two and a half day Fundamentals course in Barcelona, in Spanish. It was fascinating, but intense and a little overwhelming by the end. As I stay more time here in Barcelona on vacation (more on that later!), I’m slowly processing what I’ve learned. Pondering, practicing, and making it my own.

I’m learning to listen.

There are three levels of listening. Level 1 is when you mostly hear what someone is saying, but you’re in your own head, thinking about yourself. You relate what they are saying to your own experience. You are occasionally distracted from what they are saying by thoughts and ideas related to you and your life. You are judging and evaluating. Level 2 is when you are completely focused on the other person. It’s like when you’re in love with the person sitting across from you at the table at a restaurant, and when you look into their eyes, the rest of the world fades away. You forget about yourself and only think of that person. You listen intensely and completely with the focus of a laser beam. Level 3 is a softer, receptive focus that encompasses your environment and includes all of your senses. It’s when you are attuned not only to what someone is saying, but the feelings behind it and the effect it may have on other people in the room. It’s noticing changes in energies, vibrations, body language. It’s a deep feeling of presence and awareness of the moment.

As a coach, interactions with clients should be at listening levels 2 and 3. Level 1 is not very helpful to the client, though it is inevitable that we go there sometimes. When that happens we need to notice it and get ourselves back to level 2 or 3.

It takes practice to get out of level 1.

It’s hard for me to objectively assess my own listening skills. I think I’m usually at level 1, as I suppose are most people. As I’ve thought about ways to make it easier to listen at levels 2 and 3, it’s helped to remember my father. Dad was unusual and idiosyncratic, and I don’t think he even attempted the kind of polite listening most people do, paying attention in a surface way, but really thinking of other things. He wasn’t “nice.” If Dad was thinking of other things, it was obvious. You could say something to him and he wouldn’t respond. You could say a number of things, thinking he was hearing you or caring, and suddenly he’d say “Yes yes yes yes yes yes yes” in an irritated way, and you would realize it was not the moment to be talking with Dad. However, Dad did a lot more level 2 listening than most people do. It was part of his charm arsenal. The things he said, the way he looked at you, his candor and complicity, all made you feel like you were the most important person in the world to him or at the very least, like you had a special in with him that no one else had.

Dad could sometimes be manipulative, yes, but he was genuinely in love with people. He loved people, but he was also in love with people. Constant infatuation. If he charmed you, it was because he found you charming. I relate to my dad in that way completely.

But I digress, as I usually do when I start talking about Dad. I am most interested in level 3 listening. For some months I’ve been working on being more observant and conscious of energy changes, vibes, body language, and all that they communicate. I’ve been practicing self awareness and awareness of my environment and those around me. I admit that this awareness practice started in part because a friend laughed at me one day for never realizing it when guys like me. I’m always oblivious. So I started playing with that, and it took off and expanded from there.

What I’ve discovered is this: I’m a cat. People have always told me that I remind them of a cat, that I’m very feline, etc. And yeah, I can see it. I love to curl up in a ball and sleep in the sun. I’m intensely curious and that curiosity sometimes gets me into trouble. I’m very flexible. I like to tease. I especially love to tease men, who remind me of dogs. I move in silence around the house. I’m a master of delicate disdain. I’m constantly grooming myself. If it were socially acceptable, I would rub the length of my body against my friends when I see them.

I’m a cat, and when I’m at my best, I’m at my most cat. These past few days I’ve ramped up the cat energy as an assignment for my coaching class. My classmates labeled me Catwoman and my assignment was to connect more fully to that energy. I was amazed at the effect it had on me and others! I had several marriage proposals in the streets of Barcelona, and lots of admiring glances. Many more than usual. But it’s not because of how I looked. It was the vibe I was putting out. The cat vibe! The cat vibe is mysterious and compelling. The cat says, “I really do not give a damn, do I?” If you get too near, the cat might scratch. But she might lick you too, depending on her mood. The cat is curious and wants to check out everything. I walked into an art gallery in full-on cat mode and started looking at the works. I was very interested in several of the paintings and I wanted to ask if I could photograph them. So I asked cat style and was told that absolutely I could photograph anything I wanted to. When I left I purred “thank you,” and the guy, who I think may have been the artist, said: Thank YOU, and I DO look forward to seeing you again soon, I hope…

What does me being a cat have to do with practicing level 3 listening? I realized that when I connected to an archetype, it was much easier for me to practice awareness. I was more conscious of how my body moved and felt, the energy I put out there, and how people responded to me. Connecting to an archetype and harnessing that energy is not about pretending to be something you aren’t. It’s developing more fully a register that already exists within you, a powerful facet you can summon when needed.

How do you listen at level 2 and level 3? What archetype do you identify with and would like to connect to?